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Couples, how do you approach merging finances (or not) when you start moving in together and have discussed marriage down the line? I’m aware it depends on the couple, just curious to hear what works

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Everyone has their own way that works for them, so I'm just getting that out there before this thread becomes judgmental (it always does.) Here's what works for us - my wife and I both work full time, I earn about twice what she does. We split housework pretty evenly but also outsource a lot of it (we have an au pair, a landscaper, and a house cleaner.) We each have separate accounts and then a joint account between us. We maintain a spreadsheet of all of our expenses (literally everything) and update it about twice a year. Then all expenses are tallied and we determine how much each person owes as a fraction of their relative income. So since my income is twice hers I pay about 2/3 of the expenses and she pays 1/3. That's after tax, after we've both factored in 401k max + backdoor Roth max pay. That amount automatically gets put into our joint account from each of our paychecks each month, the rest goes into our individual accounts. All expenses are paid from the joint account. This way we each feel like we're putting in our fair share towards expenses, and we both have our "own" money we can do whatever we want with and there's never any discussion or oversight on it. We're both incentivized to make more money but no one feels like they're carrying the other, but if one of us wants to spend money on something the other thinks is frivolous or stupid (which doesn't really happen, but still a nice option to have) there's never any discussion about it. All investment accounts and our house are held jointly in our revocable trust. Like I said, this works well for us. It might not work well for others, but we like the dynamic of it.

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We lease our cars - lease payments and signing fees are treated as joint expenses. We have a HELOC which comes in handy for large expenses (we did a big renovation recently and are using it for this) - so we pay it down out of joint account as a joint expense. If we're going to plan for a big expense up front we'll set aside savings that will come from the joint account, so same split.

I’ve been with my husband for almost 20 years now so here’s some perspective from an old timer. When we moved in together before marriage, we got a joint checking account and a joint credit card. We use these to pay all common expenses (mortgage, utilities, groceries, dining out, vacations, house expenses, etc.). We deposit an agreed upon amount into the joint account each month. The amount and methodology has changed over the course of time. When we were first together, he made more than me. Now, I make more than him. We adjust based on incomes and what works for the budget we set for ourselves. We kept separate checking accounts and credit cards for our own spending. That way, no one has to see what the other spends on random stuff and presents. We buy our major assets together (houses, cars). We have separate investment accounts but are the beneficiaries of each other’s accounts. We have a joint savings account with about 6 months of cash needs in it. It’s a system that has worked for us. We were both in our 30s when we got together, so had had independent lives for a while and wanted to maintain that to an extent. However, we do also like the ease of everything coming from one place and not counting beans between the two of us.

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We are engaged, getting married 2022. We currently have separate finances and have a Splitwise account that we put shared expenses into (dinners, groceries, cabs, bills, etc). I simply have a recurring transaction in my bank account for rent (SO pays it). When we get married we will create a shared account and get a shared cc, but will continue to keep separate accounts for ourselves. We will put the same % of our income into the shared account and the rest is our own discretionary funds. We don’t want to track each other’s fun spending- if SO wants to buy a new bike, they can. If I want to buy a new guitar, I can. Also can hide presents for each other 🙂 Overall find the breakdown that works for you and your relationship. And know it may evolve over time. We continue to have big financial conversations about 1x a month to ensure we’re comfortable with our current spending, saving, and future.

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No problem! Oh and just saw the second part re: threshold. Generally anything under ~$15 we don’t add, eg if SO stops to buy bagels or I grab something we forgot from the grocery store. Totally agree about the little things, those don’t bother us to just contribute!

We never merged anything until we got married. As soon as we were back from the honeymoon we opened a joint checking account and merged our small brokerage accounts. I would probably not advise merging accounts before marriage. But that is just my opinion. Only you know your situation.

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We kept it everything separate and just took turns paying bills each month. I paid utilities and rent one month and she did the next month. We only lived together for a year before we got married and made about the same so it was really not that complicated. I understand it may be a lot different for different couples though. Not sure if it answers your question

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We live together but aren’t married. Share a credit card and checking account for rent and common charges. Everything joint (groceries, utilities, furniture, etc.) is paid for on the joint card and then the bill is split evenly. Personal expenses are paid on our individual cards and paid for individually. We both make enough (~$425k together; though she’s got me beat by about $100k) that the income disparity between us isn’t a big deal.

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This sounds like a great plan.

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As an alternative, we keep pretty much everything together. We don’t discuss “splitting” expenses between us, we just agree on general amounts we feel comfortable with each month for eating out, groceries, etc. Big or long term (cars, house, retirement plans, etc.) purchases we always discuss and agree on together when looking at our overall budget. Happy to go into more details if this interests you, OP, but it sounds like the splitting methods and separate finances described above are more your style. Sounds great - whatever works for you as a couple is most important.

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We have been together with my husband 12 years, (10 years living together and 2 years married). We are still keeping everything separate, except our savings for the house that he keeps (he also contributes more to it). We are planning to merge when we buy a house - we are looking rn. As for the expenses, we also have the Splitwise account and just record all expenses there. Any individual fun expenses are paid from our own accounts. We added each other as authorized users on our individual credit cards but we just never use them. I’d say this works for us since we have used this system for so long. If it wasn’t the habit, we would have merged right after getting married. I def do not recommend merging before getting married though, money is never fun to argue about, and it’s just more complicated if you are not married.

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We are currently renting - my husband pays a little more but really insignificant. He contributes significantly more into the savings for the house purchase though. He puts about 80%, while I only contribute barely 20%. Not really following any logic or ratios here, he thinks as a female i spend more on clothing, nails, and whatever, but I have just been putting the excess income into our brokerage account. But I appreciate him spoiling me lol When we buy our house, we will merge all accounts and his paycheck will go towards mortgage payments (any leftover will go into house emergency fund for any extra expenses/brokerage) and mine will be split between savings and daily/living expenses. Tax refunds and bonuses go towards travel fund. Both of us will get monthly allowances as “fun” money that can be saved and accumulated or spent on whatever we want. Big purchases (5k+) are always discussed and decided together.

My wife and I have all our accounts separate. We have a joint savings but never use it. For shared bills, I pay some bills she pays others. No real rhyme or reason to how we pay them. I usually pay the mortgage out of my account simply because it’s the one linked. She’ll usually send cash to put in the brokerage accounts. I manage both of ours. We each pay our own credit cards. I honestly have no interest in seeing what she buys and vise versa. I think it keeps thinks on an even keel. Again. Do what works, there’s no right or wrong. Other than being controlling with finances, everyone like to feel like they can spend on something if they want it every once in a while.

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Together for 9 years and married for 2 years. We kept a spreadsheet before marriage (which we both hated). After marriage we merged everything and created a separate small checking accounts for “fun” spending. We have never argued about finances and the separate account acts as a very useful budgeting device. I make 1.5x what my spouse does and neither of us wanted to be on a position where they would need/want to ask me for permission to buy things. The account is also small enough where any major purchase, say over $1,000 is a joint decision. That has worked very well for us, but you should do what best aligns with you and your spouse’s values.

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We haven’t done it yet, but have started talking about it in the context of a joint savings account for our kids (either the making of them — IVF, adoption — or the eventual educating of them). We’re in our mid-30s and not married so it’s one of the more pressing and left field expenses that we think we should be jointly preparing for

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Every couple is different. My husband is extremely generous. He just pays for everything before and after marriage. I pay for vacations and nice dinner dates. Been together 10+ years, NEVER once argue over finance. We never merge anything. He says it's easier if one day we want to divorce. 🤣🤣🤣

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Surprised to see how many people keep everything separate. I always thought the majority combine everything, but that doesn't seem to be the case here

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From a traditional perspective, I think you’re absolutely right. But I think it’s become more common as people are more established pre-marriage, have been getting married later, staying in the workforce (vs stay at home parent), and investing more. It is a easier to keep separate vs trying to combine everything.

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I have significantly more financial assets than my now husband (larger investment account, rental property and a more expensive primary residence). It maybe different for everyone, but I felt he is the person I want to grow old with. He feels the same way. We bought a house together. I chipped in more than he did. Sold our primary residents, in the process of selling my rental property. We have a shared bank account that we regularly contribute for mortgage, utilities, house maintenance. Separate bank accounts for our credit cards and my car payment. His car is paid for. We make big financial decisions together but I have stopped splitting evenly. We both have similar conservative spending habits. We look at our finances as a joint entity for when we both retire and live a comfortable life. It works for us and we never argue over money.

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I kindly disagree re: spreadsheets being about protecting myself, but of course your opinion is good to hear. Thank you for perspective

Maybe a culture thing, from where i come, we are married for life, no escape (lol). So no point making our lives more miserable with spreadsheets and what not... so whatever is mine is hers & whatever hers is hers :)

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We have a robust approach: **Checking, savings and brokerage accounts all separate **Minor costs(restaurants, travel etc.) split 50/50 **Major costs (rent, big purchases) split by proportion of income (revised annually) **Assets that were individually brought to the relationship (e.g., inheritance) belong to the individual **Assets accumulated, if sold, to be jointly split based on contribution % over time

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What's fair and not is each person's perception and the best way to figure this out is to have an open conversation Our case is similar to yours. I have double their income but no inheritance. They have a sizeable inheritance but not the luxury yacht parked in Monaco types. Given inheritance is often in the form of illiquid assets, they don't really have the money So in our case the approach allowed me to live the lifestyle I want without overburdening them. When I wanted to buy that $4K appliance we didn't need, I would still have sufficient disposable income if I spent a greater proportion and they would be sitting there with none for that month if we did 50/50. These things are a science only to a point. But you have to put yourselves in each other's shoes and be willing to make compromises as you go. Else everyone would have an app to do these things :)

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For financial purposes, we’re roommates who prefer to share a bed. Rent and utilities are split evenly. Since we have different food preferences, we‘ll buy most of our own food (breakfast/lunch) and alternate dinner expenses which we can compromise on. Take away and eating out are on a loose notion of equaling out in the long run.

If renting, for round numbers sake, let’s say it’s $2k and utilities and groceries averages around $500, I take those numbers, multiply out to a year (2500*12) then divide by pay frequency (assume bi-weekly so 26) then divide by 2 to be even. We then set up a shared capital one 360 account and direct deposited in there...for this example, $577/month would go into this shared account and used for these common expenses. Even better if you round up to like $600 or $650 or something to start creating a just in case buffer or even a wedding/house purchase savings fund.

Keep finances separate and one shared account for shared expenses

Married 10 years. My income is 2X theirs (we are in different fields). I basically pay everything except for private school tuition which they pay. It balances out at the end of the day with me paying 2/3 of combined expenses. We only lived together for a short while before marriage and we split things 50-50 at that time. We have a joint checking account that we hardly use and a joint credit card that we put almost every thing on. We are each free to do whatever we want with the rest of the money - although of late we have been saving and investing most of it.

We have two joint checking accounts - one for housing and utilities and the other for food/gas/dinners out. We each have predetermined reoccurring monthly deposits into the accounts. It helps to split things that way and keep all other money separate.

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